While most of the webcomics I read tend to be continuous storylines, I have found a goodly number of short, self-inclusive graphic stories on the web. These short stories often manage to avoid the cycle of inferior storytelling that many long-form comics succumb to at some point in time (though those graphic novels designed with a specific plot and ending in mind can sometimes avoid the decline in quality that their less concise brethren can suffer from), but often fail to achieve the readership that long-form comics collect over time. Often these short graphic stories languish forgotten, even among those artists who have ongoing stories to lure readers in.
One such storytelling gem is Return to Green Hollow, one of four comics by Diana Sprinkle. Unlike her other three humor comics, RtGH is a fascinating horror story drawn in pencil and presented in sepia tones. The story is of a girl, Emily, whose family has come to the home of her grandmother after her grandmother’s death, and of what she finds deep in the woods of Green Hollow. What makes Return to Green Hollow stand out is a combination of art, character, and a subtle dread that often is lacking in the violence-infested horror stories that comprise the modern horror genre.
Where other storytellers succumb to gore to scare the audience, Sprinkle uses her art to set the mood, creating more of an environmental horror. This works well, as the antagonist of RtGH is the environment; or more precisely, it’s the forest itself, and that which dwells in it. As Emily pursues glimpses of a boy who has gotten lost in the forest, the forest itself twists and grows confusing, blocking her way back and leading her and the boy to the heart of the Green Hollow, and the Beast of the Forest, the Forest’s Queen. The confrontation between Emily and the Forest’s Queen works not only as the climax of the tale, but also as a coming-of-age trial for Emily, and her solution in prevailing against the fae queen is quite unique for the horror genre.
While RtGH is only 16 pages long, the comic works well in telling its tale. An added bonus is Sprinkle’s comments below each panel, talking about the artistic processes behind the comic, the use of hatching and pencils without inks, and a bit of the back story behind the comic. Sprinkle also admits she has contemplated retelling this tale and expanding more fully on it. I must admit that if Sprinkle took more time in fleshing out the background and in building mood, the story would probably work quite well, if she maintained the balance between story and pacing. Return to Green Hollow is an enjoyable read that won’t take up a weekend to peruse its archives, and I hope that Sprinkle will take time to return to this world and show us more of Emily’s adventures in Green Hollow.